Garnishment of Wages Law and Legal Definition

Wage garnishment is a legal procedure in which a person's earnings are required by court order to be withheld by an employer for the payment of a debt such as child support. Title III of the Consumer Credit Protection Act (CCPA) prohibits an employer from discharging an employee whose earnings have been subject to garnishment for any one debt, regardless of the number of levies made or proceedings brought to collect it.

Title III protects employees from being discharged by their employers because their wages have been garnished for any one debt and limits the amount of employees' earnings that may be garnished in any one week. An employee is only protected from discharge if the employee's earnings have been subject to garnishment for the first time.

Title III applies to all individuals who receive personal earnings and to their employers. Personal earnings include wages, salaries, commissions, bonuses, and income from a pension or retirement program, but does not ordinarily include tips.

For ordinary garnishments (i.e., those not for support, bankruptcy, or any state or federal tax), the weekly amount may not exceed the lesser of two figures: 25 percent of the employee's disposable earnings, or the amount by which an employee's disposable earnings are greater than 30 times the federal minimum wage. Specific restrictions apply to court orders for child support or alimony. The garnishment law allows up to 50 percent of a worker's disposable earnings to be garnished for these purposes if the worker is supporting another spouse or child, or up to 60 percent if the worker is not. An additional 5 percent may be garnished for support payments more than l2 weeks in arrears. The wage garnishment law specifies that the garnishment restrictions do not apply to certain bankruptcy court orders, or to debts due for federal or state taxes. If a state wage garnishment law differs from the federal law, the law resulting in the smaller garnishment must be observed.